By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
November 29. 2017 11:29PM
The Scribner building is one of 20 structures, nearly all of which are interconnected, on the former L.W. Packard mill site in downtown Ashland. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)
ASHLAND — Workforce housing, a distillery, and grow space for a nearby medical-cannabis dispensary were among the dozens of ideas floated Wednesday during a discussion on the uses and redevelopment of the former L.W. Packard textile mill.
Once a manufacturer of luxury textiles, the mill, which began operations in 1916, shut down in 2009, a victim of global competition in an extremely niche market.
As currently configured, the mill complex — some of which is still in use — consists of 20 interconnected buildings owned by seven different owners.
Givan and Levi Bradley hope to join the ranks of owners sometime next year when they purchase the red-brick Scribner building and turn it into what would then be New Hampshire’s ninth micro distillery.
The Bradleys, who live in neighboring New Hampton and most recently called Tennessee their home, were among 50 state, local and federal officials, residents and property owners who gathered at the American Legion Dupuis-Cross Post 15 on Main Street to discuss what could be done and what should not be done to the mill complex.
Measuring 9.24 acres and with the Squam River running through it, the site has many unique structures, including the Scribner building, which was erected in 1880 and which the Bradleys see as “the perfect, last piece,” in their goal of opening a distillery.
The distillery would manufacture and sell craft spirits, said Levi, and would also feature a tasting room.
The Bradleys said they were drawn to the L.W. Packard site by its historic buildings but also echoed a point made several times during yesterday’s two-hour brain-storming session: Ashland is an up-and-coming place.
The town has its own water, sewer and electric departments, and it’s also just off Interstate 93, with the L.W. Packard site less than a mile from the highway.
Steve Felton, chairman of the Ashland Economic Development Committee, said having amenities such as municipal water, sewer and power puts the town at an advantage when seeking to attract property developers.
Fran Newton, Board of Selectmen chairman, said Ashland also has award-winning schools; a robust parks-and-recreation program; a downtown core; and a town government that has stabilized taxes; built a capital reserve fund; and developed a capital-improvement plan.
The town is poised for growth, and thanks to grants has improved streets and sidewalks and is funding a brownfields study of part of the L.W. Packard site.
George Bald, former commissioner of the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, told attendees to work with local businesses that may be seeking to expand rather than chasing after companies with many employees that might relocate to Ashland.
The former group, he said, is about twice as large as the latter. Bald reminded the audience that what they are attempting “takes great patience.”
There were also calls for an economic feasibility study; structural analysis of every building; and, as one person said, to be open to new uses, such as a distillery and space to grow medical marijuana.
There are four dispensaries in New Hampshire certified by the state Department of Health and Human Services, with Sanctuary ATC being the closest to Ashland, operating on Tenney Mountain Highway in Plymouth, about 10 miles from the L.W. Packard site.
Sanctuary ATC’s cultivation center, however, is currently located in Rochester.
Asked about the possibility of Sanctuary ATC moving the center to Ashland, David Shibley, its manager, said he had no comment.